A brilliant week of training, physical and mental began on Monday 27th January. Two of us signed up to become SLSGB Qualified Surf Lifeguards. First things first – were we fit enough?
A 400m swim in under 7 mins 20 seconds. Seemed fine, it was. A run of 200m in under 40 seconds, well, now, neither of us had undertaken a timed run of this distance since our school days so this was anyones guess. We were fine (Stu more fine than me) but we were also suited and booted and hatted and gloved in 5/3 ml wetsuits, booties, hats and gloves so it wasn’t your usual scene and I had a little chuckle to myself, as did many a bystander.
Next up 200m run, 200m swim, 200m run in under 8 minutes. Sound easy? Well, we weren’t so sure given the surf forecast and whilst we were based at the slightly calmer beach of North Sands, we weren’t at all sure the hail storms were going to aid us on this occasion. The hail abated and the sun came out just in time and we were off. First 200m run, fine and I took it a bit easy knowing I was going to have to dolphin dive my way through some larger sets of waves. Into the sea in our winter wetsuit clobber and the swim was by far the toughest part. Out 100m back in 100m and I felt like I’d done a round with a pair of seaweed socks in the washing machine but we were out and the final 200m run was ahead of us. It was fine, we were (are) fit enough and we were starting to get into the swing of things.
We still had a lot to do though. Rescues of conscious and unconscious casualties on rescue boards, rescues of conscious and unconscious casualties using rescue tubes and completely unaided rescues. We were also required to demonstrate our ability to catch a wave, handle a board, check equipment, bring casualties ashore, question them and provide first aid. And all of it with a complimentary piece of seaweed protruding from Stu’s ear. This was just the physical examination and a grilling in the classroom followed.
The course is thorough; 40 hours training (split between the classroom and the beach) plus a full day assessment. Much of the training was focussed on first aid with the remainder dealing with lifeguarding techniques and rescue procedures. We now feel confident dealing with first aid and rescue situations which might occur on the beach and waterside.
On a serious note, this was an amazing course, if only everyone had access to at least a basic first aid course, hundreds of fatalities could be avoided. Bantham Surf Academy delivered the course and both the tutor and assessor were very knowledgeable, thorough and interesting. Experienced trainer Dave Renaud has first hand experience of many of the situations we covered. His frankness provided gravity and context to the first aid theory. Their approach is real and I am confident that they have started us off on our journey well.
We would very much recommend this course to those who spend a lot of time by the water.